How to Create Paper Parade Float Flowers

How to Create Paper Parade Float Flowers main article image
Posted on August 3, 2021 by Vasiliki Tsongas
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New Orleans is probably most famous for her wild Mardi Gras celebrations. Whether it’s beads, Bourbon St., or extravagant parades that come to mind when you think of Mardi Gras, you can bring a little of the festivities into your own space with these paper Mardi Gras flowers just like ones that adorn countless parade floats. 

Just as preparations for Mardi Gras take months of planning, it takes time and effort to create these show-stopping creations. You will need at least 2-3 days from start to finish to create these flowers, allowing for proper curing and drying time. 

Supplies

  • White poster board (4-6 sheets per flower)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • 18g wire (insulated)
  • Wire cutters
  • Clear tape
  • Gorilla Spray Adhesive
  • Smoothing Tool
  • Paintbrush/es
  • Paint 
  • Glitter (optional)
  • Clear Spray Sealant
  • Small piece of wood
  • Sawtooth hanger
  • Hammer
  • Staple gun
  • Lightweight Staples
  • Yarn
  • Cardboard
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks

Finished flower (shaped) ~3.5 feet across

Step 1 – Attach sawtooth hanger to the back of wood block — towards the top edge.

You can use whatever size piece of wood that will be large enough to comfortably attach the hanger, but small enough to hide behind your flower. I used wood flooring samples that you can find for free at your local home improvement store. Each piece is about 1/2 inch thick and about 5-6 inches on each side. 

Step 2 – Sketch out flower petals onto your poster board.

For this step, you can either take inspiration from the petals of actual flowers or use your imagination to create your own petal shapes. I chose to make flowers that had five large bottom petals and five smaller top petals. 

Step 3 – Cut out 2 identical pieces from the poster board for each petal.

You will be sandwiching two pieces of poster board together to make each petal so be sure to cut out two identical petal shapes for each finished petal you want. 

Step 4 – Cut one piece of 18g wire for each petal.

The wire will be sandwiched between the two sheets of poster board to give the flower additional structure and allow for shaping once finished. Cut the wire to the length of the center of each petal, leaving about 2 inches on either point of the petal without wire. You want to use insulated or coated wire for this part so that the wire doesn’t pierce the poster board. 18g is the minimum thickness I would recommend so that the petals have enough flexibility to bend but also enough structure to stay in the shape you create.

Step 5 – Tape wire in place, down the center of petals.

Although both sides of the petals will be glued together, it makes it easier to manage and prevents slipping if you anchor the wires in place with a couple of pieces of clear tape while you’re preparing to glue the petal sides together. 

Step 6 – Spray both insides of petals with Gorilla Spray Adhesive and sandwich together, following instructions on the can.

While the adhesive can states that it is repositionable, it is best to do one petal set at a time and take your time matching the sides properly. Once matched, press and smooth on either side of the wire with a plastic smoothing tool. You can find these tools in the wallpaper section of your home improvement store or even use a plastic bowl scraper. The smoothing tool helps the two sides to strongly adhere. Allow 24 hours for adhesive to fully cure. 

Step 7 – Paint the back of each petal with paint and let dry.

You can use interior or exterior paint (depending on where you intend to hang your finished flower) in any color/s that you choose. I chose to purchase sample colors of indoor latex paint in half-pint jars at my local home improvement store for about $4 per color. One half-pint should be enough paint for one flower. The back of the petals will mostly not be visible on your finished flower so you can simply paint a solid color similar to the front petal color, or embellish it as you wish. Allow the paint to dry fully before moving on to the next step.

Step 8 – Paint the front of each petal and let dry. 

This is where you can unleash your creativity! After painting a base color on the front of your petals you can embellish the petals with speckles, stripes, or whatever your imagination desires. For a little additional whimsy, you can sprinkle glitter onto the wet paint before it dries or use a spray glitter coat after the paint dries. Allow the paint to dry fully before moving on to the next step.

Step 9 – Spray with Clear Spray Sealant, front and back, and allow to dry fully. 

There are a variety of sealants to choose from depending on your initial paint choice and desired finish (matte or glossy). I use Rust-oleum Matte Clear Enamel spray for my flowers. You should apply at least two coats to each petal following the instructions on the can. 

Step 10 – Attach petals to wood block using a staple gun.

First, I like to layout my petals in the general shape that I want the finished flower to be before I begin stapling. Once I am satisfied with the placement, I begin by stapling the larger, bottom petals to the wood, using 2-3 staples per petal at the base of the petal. Be sure to place at least one staple over the wire inside each petal. Continue until all bottom petals are attached. Then, slightly closer to the center, begin to attach the smaller petals in the same manner. Alternate the placement of the smaller petals by overlapping where the larger petals meet. You may have an empty space in the middle at this point where the wood shows through. This will eventually be covered up by the flower’s center. 

Step 11 – Make a pom-pom center and attach using hot glue. 

Decide how large you need your pom-pom to be and cut a rectangular piece of cardboard slightly larger than that size in width and about 12 inches long. Cut a slit about 8 inches up the middle of the long side of the cardboard. Thread one piece of yarn that will tie it all together through the slit with half the length on each side of the cardboard.  Hold yarn to the side. Now you can start wrapping yarn around the short side of your cardboard multiple times until you have enough to make a full pom-pom. When you feel you have enough for your pom-pom, cut wrapped yarn end. Using the first piece of yarn you threaded through the slit, tightly tie around all wrapped layers of yarn. Cut through loops of yarn on both sides of the cardboard edge. Release the yarn from cardboard and trim with scissors to make it rounded. A great tutorial for this method of making pom-poms can be found here. 

Once your pom-pom is complete, spread the yarn out to expose the center and dispense a generous amount of hot glue onto the pom-pom. Quickly invert the pom-pom, glue side down, into the center of your flower petals. 

Step 12 – Shape leaves and hang!

This is where all your hard work comes together and you get to see the finished product! With one hand on each side of a petal, gently begin to bend and shape your petals in smooth curves. Do one petal at a time until your flower has the desired shape. 

You can use a simple nail or screw in a wall to hang your finished flowers inside or outside of your home. For some extra sparkle, I added wired fairy lights to my float flowers. Mardi Gras is a time of letting loose and enjoying life so let your creativity guide you!


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